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My fiance and I were struck on his motorcycle by a red-light-runner who did not have any insurance, we were taken to hospital.

Bellevue, WA |

My fiance did not have insurance on the particular motorcycle that we were riding (this is not illegal in WA state, but we will never make that mistake again and will get UM insurance) and so his auto insurance will not take our case. My medical insurance will pay for my injuries alone, and not his and my fiance does not have medical insurance. I was released the same day, he had to stay overnight in the hospital for injuries, and our bike was totaled. A police report was filed, all witnesses agreed that the car driver was completely at fault. Our bills total much more than the small claims court limit of $5,000, and no lawyer will take our case "because he likely has no money if he was uninsured". Can we sue individually in small claims ($10,000 total)? Where can we go from here?

Attorney Answers 3

Posted

I'm so sorry to hear about your accident and the surrounding circumstances.

To answer your specific question: Yes, each of you can sue separately in small claims court in an effort to recover the $5000 jurisdictional limit.

That said, here are a couple of thoughts for you:

1. If you're inclined to go to the trouble of suing the driver, I'm not sure why you wouldn't just sue him in Superior Court in an effort to obtain a judgment for all the money that you're entitled to recover. That way, if the driver is able to satisfy an adverse judgment, you might be able to collect more than the $5000/ea. Notably, if the other driver is uninsured [a] an insurance company would not retain an attorney to defend him, and [b] the driver presumably would not be able to afford to pay an attorney by the hour to defend him. So, he'd likely end up representing himself in Superior Court just as he'd represent himself in small claims court. (Or, there's a chance that he'd just default.)

2. Just FYI, because the other driver is uninsured, and because you sustained bodily injury, there's a solid chance that the DOL will suspend the other driver's license. One way that he can avoid getting his license suspended is if he settles and pays you. So, if he cares about his license (as most people do), he'll have a decent incentive to find a way to pay you, even if he's technically judgment proof. Below, I've pasted a link to the DOL's site that addresses this issue:

http://www.dol.wa.gov/driverslicense/suspenduninsuredaccidents.html

Best of luck with everything, and I hope this helps a bit.

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Asker

Posted

Thank you very much! I will read that right now! If we went to Superior Court, I was under the impression that we would need, or that it is extremely recommended, to be represented. No one will take our case on a No Win, No Fee basis, do you know the general amount we might expect to pay in upfront fees for this type of case, or could we potentially represent ourselves?

Robert Adam Meyers

Robert Adam Meyers

Posted

My pleasure. Yes, the conventional wisdom is that it's usually better to retain counsel to litigate in Superior Court -- and I typically agree with that conventional wisdom. However, one major reason for that conventional wisdom is that [1] the opposing party may retain counsel to represent him in Superior Court, so [2] if you represent yourself, you could be at a disadvantage. Here, as I mentioned, it's arguably unlikely that the other driver will retain counsel, so that reason probably doesn't exist here. If he did "lawyer up," you'd be at liberty to voluntarily dismiss your complaint in Superior Court and refile in small claims court. (You'd just need to pay filing and service fees again.) Another reason for the conventional wisdom is that Superior Court procedure is a bit more "involved" than small claims court procedure, and Superior Court cases often take longer to resolve. But, Superior Court judges are pretty patient and lenient with parties who represent themselves -- and as I mentioned, there's a chance that the other party will just default at the beginning of the case. In light of these factors, in my view, under your specific circumstances, it's probably worth at least reconsidering the conventional wisdom and considering an action in Superior Court.

Asker

Posted

Thank you so much, this was extremely helpful!

Posted

You seem to have a firm grasp on things though isn't it a shame hindsight is 20-20 . i say that with all sincerity. Although I am a Cincinnati motorcycle accident personal injury lawyer I would not venture to give advice on the law outside my jurisdiction.. the one answer already from the lawyer in your area was helpful to my understanding

This is not legal advice. This is just general information.You should always contact a lawyer in your jurisdiction for legal advice. By giving you this information a lawyer client relationship is not created. Although I try to be accurate , you should not rely solely on this information and should get an opinion from a lawyer you speak with personally.

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Posted

See a lawyer, findout who the bike was registed to. it is unlikly that their is any other avalable insureance but for your own sake look into it.

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